I often say that I don’t consider dollars/word when I accept an assignment. Instead, I consider how much I’m making per-hour. To do this, however, you have to keep track of your time on assignments. In doing so, I know my true hourly rate.
I find that my hourly rate varies, depending on the project, and the client. But even work I do for the same client can produce a different hourly rate. Here's an example. I create custom content for a nonprofit client on a regular basis, and am paid a set fee for each article.
For one article of 650 words, I was paid $300, and spent a half-hour doing background research and another hour writing the draft of the article. (It was on a subject I’d written about before, so it was a fast draft—and this story didn’t require me to conduct any interviews.) Edits and a quick proofread took another half-hour. So the piece took two hours to write. Hourly rate: $150.
Another piece for $400 required five interviews, which eat up a lot of time to schedule, conduct, and then transcribe my notes. The interviewing, transcribing and thank-you notes took a little over four hours, and writing the story itself took another three. Edits took another hour. So this story took eight hours, much longer than I originally expected. Hourly rate: $50.
A third $300 piece required more background research—more than two hours’ worth, and another two hours to write and edit. Hourly rate: $75.
From tracking my time, I know that work for this client typically pays $50-150/hour; I make more for stories that require less legwork and research and less for stories that require more research upfront. I know what each of my projects' hourly rates are, which helps me decide what to charge and whether to say yes to a new assignment. You can do the same when you track your time.
Your assignment: Track the time you spend on your next assignment and determine your hourly rate.
**Want to learn more about successful freelancing?
Check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition, a freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line.
If you're a new freelancer, get up to speed fast with Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, which is aimed at brand-new freelancers in search of their first clips.
And if you want to add ghostwriting to your repertoire, you'll want to read Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, which shows how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field even if you haven't ghostwritten before.
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